US Must Not Normalize Extremists in Prospective Israeli Government

November 7, 2022

The official results of Israel’s election are now in, and it is clear that Benjamin Netanyahu will be asked to form the next coalition and will likely pull together the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.

J Street is deeply concerned about what this new coalition will mean for the fate of democratic institutions, the rule of law and the ideals of justice, equality and freedom on which the state of Israel was founded – the shared values in which the US-Israel relationship is grounded. Netanyahu severely disregarded those principles and values during the election campaign, when he partnered with and empowered convicted terror supporter Itamar Ben-Gvir and other racist and homophobic extremists in the ‘Jewish Power’ and associated parties to form a far-right alliance. Now, that faction appears set to take on major ministerial powers in the new government – an incredibly dangerous development.

Those who truly believe that the US-Israel relationship should be grounded in our shared democratic values cannot interact with this forthcoming government in a “business as usual” manner. We therefore call on both the US government and American pro-Israel organizations to not engage with Ben-Gvir or others in the next Israeli government who have a proven track record of criminal support for terror, or whose rhetoric and actions clearly cross a red line in opposition to the core values and principles of the US-Israel relationship.

It is not only possible, but essential, to maintain the US-Israel relationship via coordination that does not involve extremists like Ben-Gvir. Making clear that he and others hostile to democracy and simple decency are persona non grata is necessary to protect the bilateral relationship, rather than weaken it.

It is also critical to recognize that Ben-Gvir’s extremism is in service of a radical anti-Palestinian, anti-diplomacy agenda that openly seeks to destroy any possibility of a mutually negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Given the overwhelming support among likely members of the incoming government for outright annexation of occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law, the US government should immediately and forcefully reiterate its unequivocal opposition to unilateral annexation. The United States must be clear and consistent that it does not accept acquisition of territory by conquest, whether by a fierce adversary or a close ally.

The US government must also more forcefully oppose “creeping” or de facto annexation and insist on the full protection of the human and other fundamental rights of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation, as required of Israel as an occupying power under international law. It is now more important than ever that the US be clear and consistent that acts like settlement expansion, the construction of settler-only infrastructure, evictions in East Jerusalem, demolitions of Palestinian homes, forced relocations of Palestinians and the permitting or aiding of settler violence against Palestinians are inconsistent with US interests and international law.

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